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Verdict: 
Beautifully crafted, custom frame handbuilt in the UK providing a great balance of looks and performance
Weight: 
0g
Contact: 
www.baldwintitanium.co.uk
Baldwin Titanium custom frame
8 10

Baldwin Titanium is a relatively new company, established in 2012 with an actual launch just last year. From their base in East Yorkshire the aim is to create custom built, one off titanium road bikes. While framebuilding in the UK is seeing a bit of a resurgence at the moment steel tends to be the material of choice so its good to see someone specialising in titanium.

Frame

If you fancy your own bespoke titanium machine Baldwin will need your measurements which can be gone about in a couple of ways. A fitting session is the best option to get analysed and discuss exactly what you want from your bike, whether you're after race, touring, cross etc. If you already have a bike setup you're happy with Baldwin will email you a form to fill out from which they can work.

The frame we've got is made from plain gauge tubing supplied by Paragon Machine Works though should you want a butted option or just fancy Reynolds you can spec that to. The titanium itself is 3Al/2.5V (3% Aluminium, 2.5% Vanadium) Grade 9 which is the standard titanium alloy for bike manufacturing.

Straight away the build quality is impressive. I like the way the blasted finish gives everything a blended, natural look with the welds being neat and minimal. Don't think minimal means fragile though, Baldwin were very happy to share the destructive & non-destructive test reports for their welds and offer a lifetime guarantee to the original owner.

The Baldwin uses an integrated head tube which is a beefy looking affair in relation to the rest of the frame. The main triangle is a pretty simple affair with no oversizing, shaping or diameter changes along their lengths. The seat and down tube meet at a standard bottom bracket shell although thanks to the imminent delivery of a new custom jig options such as BB30 will be possible. Basically it's much the same as the rest of the bike: flick through the catalogues and spec exactly what you want.

The rear end is pretty slender too with the pencil thin seat stays and surprisingly unfussy chainstays. Nothing is overbuilt or squared off to increase performance, rather the builder uses the properties of the material to get on with the job.

The dropouts certainly give plenty of clearance for whatever quick release lever you fancy using. The drive side has a replaceable mech hanger attached, always a bonus should you drop it.

The cable guide and water bottle bosses are welded nicely to the frame rather than riveted, always a neat touch and the seat tube uses an alloy sleeve for the post which is soon to be changed to a composite one.

The geometry and sizing isn't the only thing that's individual to the customer either. You can have your Baldwin supplied as a frame only or a fully specced bike depending on your preferences or budget. There are finish options to, blasted is the standard or you can have it brushed or even painted should you desire.

Ride

The Baldwin is stiff, probably the stiffest titanium frame I've ridden in terms of forgiveness from the material with feedback more akin to an aluminium frame but with just that hint of elasticity that titanium is renowned for. Admittedly the frame is a small size but it's obviously been built with performance in mind.

The front end continues that theme with the short head tube providing very direct handling. The Baldwin tracked nicely descending and through fast bends, with the titanium still soaking up the bumps and rough road surfaces despite that underlying stiffness.

Climbing and sprinting hard both require plenty of stiffness around the bottom bracket area and can often be the Achilles heel of titanium frames. There were no such issues here highlighting the performance aspirations of this particular frame.

All this stiffness though doesn't mean an uncomfortable ride. There is still enough plushness there for big miles; this frame would be perfect for a fast paced sportive or club run blast.

The build here complements the frame as well. The Ultegra mechanical groupset is a good match for the performance of the frame as are the Easton wheels, providing a balance between speed and comfort. The Deda cockpit is stiff, oversized alloy and matches the tight handling, and the chunky stem works well with the small diameter tubing.

Something we haven't seen before is the Aerozine crankset. Rather than threaded holes for the pedals it comes with adaptors to allow you to choose between 170, 172.5, or 175mm length. As well as making it easy for shops to offer a range of sizes, it's possibly also a simple solution for riders with leg length imbalances. They also provide the seatpost as well which looks smart in its polished alloy finish.

Price

So whats this all going to cost you then? The overall price is just as custom as your new bike but as a ballpark figure a frameset starts at £2950. That'll get you a plain gauge tubeset with Reynolds double-butted tubes upping that to £3150. The frameset comprises the custom handbuilt frame with a choice of Columbus or Deda fork, Ritchey headset, and a choice of seatpost and associated fittings.

The build time is around about seven weeks depending on how busy the workshop is and Baldwin will send you photos on progress. A nice touch I reckon as for me the whole point of having something bespoke is that the designing, building and speccing process is just as much fun as the delivered product.

Overall

Custom frames are always difficult to review if they've been designed and built for someone else but from what I've seen here a Baldwin frame is going to deliver whatever you've asked it to do. The build quality is very good as is the overall finish and it's definitely a good looking machine. Spending a lot of time on oversized carbon or alloy bikes tends to make you forget how beautiful a small diameter tubed titanium bike looks, and the straight top tube adds to that classical theme.

The fact that its a smaller size than I'd normally ride will influence the feedback a touch but the ride quality of the plain gauge tubing is very different from any other titanium bike I've ridden and I rather liked the directness of it.

The price is going to divide people's opinion but it comes down to how much you value the individuality and the benefits of having a truly bespoke frame. A frame built to your exacting standards and preferences then backed up with a lifetime warranty doesn't seem too bad in my eyes for your three grand.

On the whole the Baldwin is a well built, beautifully finished bike backed up with (judging by their social media activity anyway) a high level of customer service and knowledge with the added bonus of your own frame being handbuilt in the UK.

Verdict

Beautifully crafted, custom frame handbuilt in the UK providing a great balance of looks and performance

road.cc test report

Make and model: Baldwin Titanium

Size tested: n/a

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Custom built titanium frame

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

All Baldwins are full custom so are specced for each individual customer. The build time takes around 7 weeks which Baldwin says allows them to create the best quality frame that they can. The build quality is very good and some of the best we've seen on a titanium frame.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The build quality of the frame is very tidy with neat welds and a tough blasted finish.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

This frame is manufactured from grade 9 titanium alloy, a mix of titanium with 3% aluminium and 2.5% vanadium in plain gauge tubing.

You can spec whatever tubing you desire though from the catalogues though should you fancy butted.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Custom

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

N/A

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, the plain gauge tubing provided a very stiff ride but with the added bonus of the titanium's natural shock absorbing properties.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes plenty of stiffness around the BB area and at the headtube.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Very well, it was a joy to ride hard.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

N/A

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The steering did seem to slow down if a lot of weight was applied over the front end, climbing or sprinting for instance. Bear in mind this bike was built for somebody else who may have specced this or be a different weight, height, sex etc. where it wouldn't cause a problem

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

N/A

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

N/A

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

N/A

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Wheels and tyres

Controls

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

N/A, All custom kit

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

The performance marks and comments shouldn't be taken too seriously''if this frame had been built to my measurements it would have ridden differently.

The comments on build quality and finish though ring true regardless of who the frame is built for.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: Whatever needs testing or Genesis Flyer, fixed of course!  My best bike is: Kinesis T2 with full Centaur Red

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

 

Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.

25 comments

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Lumpy beads compared to my Merlin

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jimc101 [72 posts] 2 years ago
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And my Planet X Lynskey, they look pretty terrible especially for the money asked

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notfastenough [3715 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds great, and given that these days you can pay that for an off-the-peg frame, I don't think that's too much for a custom build using a material that's notoriously difficult to work with. Not that I can afford it, but that's not the point.

I do wonder how it would look with the 180mm head tube that I use- one advantage of oversize tubing is that such a high front end can still look quite 'pro'.

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Ross K [17 posts] 2 years ago
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That photo of the seat tube/seat stays is astonishing in terms of how bad the welds are. With Ti frames, beautifully executed welds are everything. You see far better welds on any number of far, far cheaper beautifully-made Chinese, US or Russian Ti frames. It stands to reason, since these foreign framebuilders have been doing the job well for ages. The PR guy should be sacked for allowing a photo of such substandard welding to accompany what is in essence an advertorial for the product.

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Flying Scot [921 posts] 2 years ago
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I like it from a distance, our own fab shop at work do Ti and stainless welding ( not bikes!) and I would have to say that I don't think the welds are tidy enough for a high value consumer product either.

Fine for behind the scenes though, and I'm open to it looking worse in the picture than in reality.

And I am personally interested in made to measure stainless or Ti frame, so fully support Baldwins efforts

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wellcoordinated [209 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree quality of welds looks very poor. Not a good advertisement for a premium price frame.

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nuclear coffee [217 posts] 2 years ago
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Is it me or does it have a weirdly slack headtube angle? Looks almost mountain bike like.

And I know most reviews are essentially PR, but seriously... there is pretty much nothing you can do to a frame to change its stiffness/compliance ratio if it is made of round tubes and an isotropic material (read: anything that isn't carbon fibre or wood). You can make it compliant, or stiff; but if made of a material that responds the same in all directions, that compromise is dictated by geometry.

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arrieredupeleton [576 posts] 2 years ago
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It's not just you. Strangely slack head angle. I reckon the frame was made to order and not purchased so is now hawked around for PR purposes. They aren't doing themselves any favours.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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I wonder if the PR guy is the same fella in charge of their social media too?

The barrage of being followed and unfollowed, followed and unfollowed, followed and unfollowed on Twitter is highly annoying.

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notfastenough [3715 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmm, when I posted my positive comment yesterday I was viewing this page on my phone. Taking a 2nd look today on my big screen, I am rather surprised at those welds.

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Shamblesuk [152 posts] 2 years ago
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Looks like a PR own goal here, especially when you look at the Mosiac RT-1 from last week (cheap badge aside) which looks a far more beautiful proposition.

At least get someone who fits the bike, to start with. Then lose the 1985 bottle carrier, add some aero rims and stop the photographer from snapping the awful looking welds, and you would do a lot better.

I could think of other places like Spin Cycle Works who have some experience in this and make far better specced and finished frames.

If 'built in UK' is your driver, then fine, but as one of the commenters above said, the Asian builders have more experience and are making them better, so that for me outweighs having a shoddy looking machine built in UK. Sorry.

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massspike [139 posts] 2 years ago
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For that price you could buy a Serotta custom Ti frame. Or better yet given Serotta's range of pre-built frames (e.g. std and short top tubes) why bother -- save the cash and buy off the rack.

You will also get the benefit of the next gen oversized Ti tubing they are now using -- increased stiffness

P.S. glad it wasn't just me who thought the welds looked sketchy.

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Lugg Valley CC [3 posts] 2 years ago
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I have put in about 800 miles on a Baldwin that I have owned for about 2 weeks. I have taken it through floods, land slides, closed roads, broken trees. It has not put a foot wrong. After riding carbon for the last few years the Baldwin is silent, no squeaks or rattles.

After 130 miles in to Wales no back pain or painful wrists. Just a comment re Melin Frames, I have one in my basement with a crack in it, its out of warranty so its scrap!. Baldwin offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner.

Re the welds buy Carbon FIbre then, just don't leave it in the sun and if you ride round here, check that frame for cracks once a week.

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Lugg Valley CC [3 posts] 2 years ago
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I have put in about 800 miles on a Baldwin that I have owned for about 2 weeks. I have taken it through floods, land slides, closed roads, broken trees. It has not put a foot wrong. After riding carbon for the last few years the Baldwin is silent, no squeaks or rattles.

After 130 miles in to Wales no back pain or painful wrists. Just a comment re Melin Frames, I have one in my basement with a crack in it, its out of warranty so its scrap!. Baldwin offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner.

Re the welds buy Carbon FIbre then, just don't leave it in the sun and if you ride round here, check that frame for cracks once a week.

Avatar
Lugg Valley CC [3 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have put in about 800 miles on a Baldwin that I have owned for about 2 weeks. I have taken it through floods, land slides, closed roads, broken trees. It has not put a foot wrong. After riding carbon for the last few years the Baldwin is silent, no squeaks or rattles.

After 130 miles in to Wales no back pain or painful wrists. Just a comment re Melin Frames, I have one in my basement with a crack in it, its out of warranty so its scrap!. Baldwin offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner.

Re the welds buy Carbon FIbre then, just don't leave it in the sun and if you ride round here, check that frame for cracks once a week.

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RoboRider21 [14 posts] 2 years ago
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I have to say that the pictures don't do this frame any justice.

I saw one at The London Bike Show and it was beautiful in the flesh and light too.

I actually think its great that different brands give us different choices. If you want a cheaper off the shelf option of a mass produced bike then they are available.
The totally 1 off custom build will appeal to many who like the idea of not having a mass produced bike to ride that is made perfectly for them.

I have not ridden one so I obviously cant comment on the ride but the tester seems very clear and positive about his findings on how well it rode.

All that aside what we should be championing here is another company manufacturing their bikes in the UK. If they wanted to, I am sure they could have taken the easy route and stuck their name on an off the shelf titanium bike from the Far East.

Lets try and support projects like this so we can hopefully get the British Bike Industry back on the map.

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TheDoctor [199 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Lets try and support projects like this so we can hopefully get the British Bike Industry back on the map.

True, but their welder should have an eye test, or at least get his seeing eye dog to do the welding for him!

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badback [302 posts] 2 years ago
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massspike wrote:

For that price you could buy a Serotta custom Ti frame. Or better yet given Serotta's range of pre-built frames (e.g. std and short top tubes) why bother -- save the cash and buy off the rack.

You will also get the benefit of the next gen oversized Ti tubing they are now using -- increased stiffness

P.S. glad it wasn't just me who thought the welds looked sketchy.

IIRC didn't Serotta go bust last summer or have they started up again ?

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Wow, first off you get Fanny Craddock doing custom carbon, now Mike Baldwin doing titanium.

I'm all for buying British, but in a country with a proud engineering tradition, in cycling, motorsport and aerospace (and thus all in working with ti) I still think it needs neater welding.....

(and has the dude with the cracked Merlin made enquiries with the company about getting it fixed?)

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massspike [139 posts] 2 years ago
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Velotastic: looks like you are correct. They have restructured as "Saratoga Frameworks". I knew they kicked Ben Serotta out last summer but were still handling service calls (I had a question about my Fierte IT).

They seem to be offering an all metal lineup (Ti and Steel) of frames with optional OEM Enve (CF) forks based on the Serotta designs. One interesting option is a semi custom build (halfway between off-the-rack and full custom). Prices have gone up a bit.

My comment still stands: I'd rather buy from this proven shop.

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fatty [77 posts] 2 years ago
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Nice to see new products but you can get a MUCH MUCH BETTER product from Burls Titanium. He offers endless options, top quality welds/finish and excellent pricing. I won't be swapping my Burls for this lumpy effort!

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Huw Watkins [105 posts] 2 years ago
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I've had Ti frames made by Seven, Merlin and GT (actually Sandvik) and those welds are really very poor indeed.

Check out Moots, Firefly, Seven, Dean, Serotta, Erickson, Independent Fabrication, etc to see what can really be done.

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andyp [1473 posts] 2 years ago
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Nice looking bike. Terrible graphics.

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monty dog [460 posts] 2 years ago
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It's not just the uneveness of the welds, but the dwell spots that can act as stress-raisers - I've seen better quality welds on $500 frames from China.
Re the cracked Merlin - the brand was acquired by Competitive Cyclist from ABG a few years ago but AFAIK they're not honouring the lifetime warranties.
Serrotta did indeed go bust and Saratoga took on some of the workers, not the business.

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surly_by_name [410 posts] 2 years ago
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Lugg Valley CC wrote:

Just a comment re Melin Frames, I have one in my basement with a crack in it, its out of warranty so its scrap!. Baldwin offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner.

Although Baldwin's warranty offering assumes they will still be around to honour the warranty when your frame cracks. As demonstrated by your experience with Merlin, maybe not worth so much?

I imagine someone like Seven could fix your Merlin (although I am no metallurgist) but cost might be prohibitive.